General Conference… Did you know?
What is General Conference?
¶ 14. Article II.—The General Conference shall meet once in four years at such time and in such place as shall be determined by the General Conference or by its duly authorized committees. The first General Conference was in 1792 and was attended by only clergy.
How long is General Conference?
General Conference and the elected delegates usually meet for approximately 11 days to worship, pray, and conduct legislative work. General Conference 2020 will be held May 5-15 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Where does General Conference take place?
The location for General Conference changes every quadrennium. The 2020 General Conference is taking place in Minneapolis, MN.
Historically, the location of the General Conference meeting’s site rotated between the church’s five geographic U.S. jurisdictions.
The location for the 2024 General Conference of The United Methodist Church is undecided. It was to be held in Manila, Philippines, but those plans have been cancelled due to lack of availability as of August 2019.
How many delegates are present at General Conference?
General Conference is made up of an international body between 600 and 1,000 delegates from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. They are elected by their Annual Conferences, Missionary Conferences, or other approved autonomous or concordat churches with which The United Methodist Church has a special relationship. For example, the Methodist Church in Great Britain sends four voting delegates to each General Conference.
How many lay and clergy delegates from my Annual Conference attend?
There is an equal amount of laity (non-clergy) and clergy delegates. The delegates represent the 12 million-member international United Methodist Denomination. The Upper New York Conference is allowed to send 10 delegates, five lay and five clergy, plus four alternates which include two lay members and two clergy members.
How are General Conference delegates and alternates expenses?
The expenses of the 10 elected General Conference delegates (five lay, five clergy) are funded through the General Conference. The Upper New York Annual Conference will pay for four alternates (two lay, two clergy) to General Conference. The alternates are the first and second elected lay and clergy delegates to Jurisdictional Conference. There is no expectation for other members of the delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conference to attend General Conference. Anyone may choose to attend General Conference, but they would self-fund the trip.
Who determines how many delegates from each Annual Conference will attend?
A formula determines the number of delegates each Annual Conference elects. The current formula calls for one clergy delegate per 375 active/retired clergy members of the Conference, one clergy delegate for every 26,000 local church members and lay delegates equal to the total of clergy delegates. (BOD ¶ 511) General Conference 2016 had 864 delegates. The 2020 session will have 862.
What role does my Bishop play in General Conference?
Bishops from all over the connection attend General Conference, but they cannot vote nor do they have a voice in sessions. They may only address the assembly when permission is granted. Different Bishops serve as presiding officers during the Conference.
Who else attends General Conference besides the delegates? I was not elected as a delegate. Does that mean I can’t attend?
The Secretary of the General Conference, who was elected at the previous quadrennial gathering, and a Commission on the General Conference are present. There are also staff and directors of other general agencies and advocacy caucuses present. In addition, there are countless volunteers who attend and serve as pages, tellers, ushers, hosts, and worship leaders.
If there is space available, anyone can attend General Conference, but must sit outside of the voting area and listen to the legislative sessions and participate in worship and special events.
How is General Conference conducted?
General Conference opens with worship and gathers for prayer and worship throughout the multi-day session. Following a roll call and establishing a quorum, the body adopts a Plan of Organization and Rules of Order. This sets the schedule, ground rules, duration, and order for presenting General Conference business.
The quadrennial General Conferences usually last 11 days with delegates spending much of the first week reviewing petitions in legislative committees. All approved legislation becomes part of The Book of Discipline, which is available in print and online versions.
General Conference also adopts a quadrennial budget. The total amount is then apportioned to the Annual Conferences to fund global and connectional ministries of the denomination, including specific missional initiatives, the work of general agencies and Bishops, interfaith and ecumenical work, support for seminaries and their students, historically black colleges, Africa University, and General Conference.
Each General Conference also generates statements representing the official position of the United Methodist Church on a variety of contemporary issues and challenges. When approved by a simple majority of the delegates, these statements become part of The Book of Resolutions.
How is General Conference funded?
General Conference is funded through ministry shares distributed to the apportioned General Administration fund. Click here to learn more about this fund.
What is determined at General Conference?
The Book of Discipline (¶¶ 13-22; 501-511) outlines the powers and duties of General Conference. These include the authority to provide and define:
- The responsibilities and privileges of church membership (without reference to race, gender or status),
- the duties and powers of clergy, Bishops and Annual Conferences,
- revisions of official hymnals, rituals, and modes of worship,
- boards and agencies supporting the connection,
- fundraising and distribution of funds,
- a uniform basis for electing Bishops in the Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States and the number of Bishops in the Central Conferences on other continents,
- jurisdictional boundaries,
- judicial processes,
- the establishment of commissions,
- “such other legislation as may be necessary subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Constitution of the Church” (BOD ¶ 16).
What can General Conference not do?
General Conference cannot revoke clergy or church members’ right to trial/due process, eliminate Bishops or change the General Rules. Amending the Constitution requires the approval of both two-thirds of the General Conference delegates and two-thirds of the total Annual Conference members voting, while changes to the Articles of Religion or Confession of Faith require the approval of three-fourths of those voting in both bodies.
How does General Conference relate to my local church?
The General Conference is the policy making body of The United Methodist Church. Only the General Conference speaks officially for the Church. The work of the General Conference is recorded in The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions. Only General Conference can change The Book of Discipline.
Where can I find the Constitution of The United Methodist Church?
The Constitution can be found in The 2016 Book of Discipline beginning on page 25 and concluding on page 44. The Constitution establishes the basic outline for the organization of the denomination as well as establishing the office and role of the Bishop. The Constitution establishes the Judicial Council as the body to rule on matters of church law as passed by the General Conference.
How is a General Conference different from a Special Session?
A special session of the General Conference may be called by the Council of Bishops. Before the Special Session in 2019, the last time a Special Session was called was in 1970 to organize the union of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches.